Mark Martin, No. 01 U.S. Army Impala SS met with members of the media at Dover International Speedway to discuss racing at Dover, filling in for Jeff Gordon at a race, his expectations for Pocono and other subjects. A recording of this interview...
Mark Martin, No. 01 U.S. Army Impala SS met with members of the media at Dover International Speedway to discuss racing at Dover, filling in for Jeff Gordon at a race, his expectations for Pocono and other subjects. A recording of this interview can be downloaded by clicking the link below.
DO YOU FEEL THAT DOVER IS THE DETERMINING TRACK TO SEE WHAT THE NEW CAR IS CAPABLE OF? "I don't think so. I think Darlington was a big one; it was a little bit larger race track than this. It is what it is. It's a work in progress, for sure. I don't think that this one will be quite as challenging as Darlington was for the teams to make the car work."
WHAT KIND OF RACING DO YOU THINK WE'LL SEE THIS WEEKEND? "It will be typical Dover. You have to remember that this car is a little bit more difficult to maneuver and it's a little bit more difficult to race with so you have to keep that in mind. But it's the same Dover race. It's going to be a great competitive race. This car is more of a challenge to maneuver."
WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR ELBOW? "Nothing. This is preventative maintenance. I'm doing this to prevent having a sore elbow."
HAVE YOU MADE ANY DECISIONS ABOUT 2008 YET? "Gosh, no (laughs). I expect. I guess I have. I guess I'm going to do roughly the same schedule with the same group. That's our plan."
WHEN YOU SAY ROUGHLY, WILL YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY? "I think it's more like (races) that I did (this year) that I won't next year. The schedule laid out here was seven races in a row right through this stretch here that's been really a challenge. It's been a challenge for everyone; all the guys that work on the cars and everything else, with all the testing that's been going on and everything. I'm just going to learn from 2007 and look at 2008 and we'll either do the same number of races or maybe a little bit more like what I had planned originally, which was more like 20 points races instead of 24. I love what I'm doing and I really love this team and I really look forward to going to work every day with them."
SO YOU'LL PROBABLY BACK OFF RATHER THAN ADD RACES? "I won't add from this year's schedule. I'll either do the same or a small number less. I'm looking forward to it. I love going to work every day with these guys."
ANY CONCERNS COMING IN TO DOVER LIKE NOT BEING ABLE TO TEST THE NEW CAR HERE? "No, not really at all because I think that this place will be less of a challenge than Darlington was. There's a little bit more room, you can slide up the race track more and wobble around out there. There's more room. We're so confined at Darlington; that was a real challenge. I think everybody's making progress with the cars and it's a work in progress. We will get better with them the more we race them."
WHY ARE YOU GOOD HERE AND WHY DO YOU LIKE THIS TRACK SO MUCH? "I like the track so much because we run good here. I'm not sure why we have had such good cars all through the years. I've been able to work with my team and get my car to do what I need it to do. All this racing except for restrictor-plate racing is all about the corners. That's all it is. We go through the corners good here. That's been the key and it is really the key everywhere except plate racing."
DO YOU ANTICIPATE CHANGES IN DRIVING STYLE BECAUSE OF THE NEW CAR? "Absolutely. I think that there's a chance that the high groove may be used more with the new car here. We're obviously going to have to back the corners up some for the bump stop because of the splitter being right on the ground to start with. I don't know what to expect for the exit but I know as the tires get hot it's really going to be a challenge. It has been everywhere else. It won't get any easier here but because the race track is wide, we may use more of the width of the race track than we did with the other car."
LAST WEEK WE HAD A FIRST-TIME WINNER AND FIVE GUYS IN THE TOP FIVE WHO HAD THEIR BEST FINISHES THIS YEAR. DO YOU LIKE TO SEE THAT? "That was great for Casey (Mears) and for Kyle Petty and of course for J.J. Yeley as well. That's part of the sport. As long as I've been a part of this, you've had races where there were odd things that happened at the end from time to time. Racing's not predictable and it's a moving target. That target moved a little bit from being the fastest car through the corners to the best car with the best mileage. Casey Mears was the best car with the best mileage to win the race."
THERE WERE SOME GRUMBLINGS THAT IT WAS A FUEL-MILEAGE VICTORY. THERE WERE ONLY 12 CARS ON THE LEAD LAP SO THOSE GUYS THAT WERE UP FRONT HAD TO HAVE RAN WELL. YOUR THOUGHTS? "Casey ran good and so did Kyle. And J.J. ran good. And they got enough gas mileage to put them in the window to where it was a race between themselves. They weren't lame ducks, they were good cars. You're going to have fuel-mileage races. And you're going to have races where a third of the field is knocked out from wrecks. And you're going to have some races where there are 30 cars on the lead lap at the end and that's racing. It's not predictable."
AT MEDIA DAY IN DAYTONA, YOU WERE ASKED IF ANYBODY WOULD BE WATCHING YOUR PART-TIME SCHEDULE AND YOU SAID JEFF GORDON SHOWED SOME INTEREST IN IT. HAVE OTHER DRIVERS EXPRESSED INTEREST? "It's not the easiest thing to put together but we're demonstrating that it can be done and it's working well for us. There's some other guys interested in it. I talked to my old friend Rusty Wallace last night and he told me he missed it really bad and I reminded him that I tried to get him to split the season with me in 2006. It would have been a cool deal and now he sees just how cool it could have been."
DO YOU THINK HE'LL BE BACK IN A CAR NEXT YEAR? "No, I don't think so. He's all set. But he said his advice to me was to keep driving as long as I could drive."
ARE WE GOING TO GET YOU IN THE BOOTH ANYTIME SOON? "Rusty's good though. Rusty always had the gift of gab and I never did. It comes natural for Rusty but it wouldn't come so natural for me."
KYLE PETTY WON'T BE DRIVING NEXT WEEK. WILL IT BE STRANGE NOT TO HAVE HIM THERE? "It's tough because some of us have been around forever and whenever you see that it's sort of a wake-up call that our time is really limited. That's great for Kyle. I'm real proud of him; I'm real proud that he got a chance to get everybody's ear last week and have a great run, a great finish and I've been watching the papers and stuff and he's had a chance to get your ear a little bit. He's a very important part of our sport; he'll do great doing TV and we'll all feel like he's still part of the community whether he's in the booth or behind the wheel."
WHAT'S IT LIKE BEING IN THE HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS SHOP BEING FITTED FOR THE NO. 24 CAR'S SEAT? "It was different. Everyone there has treated me like gold. I had a chance to look around a little bit and that place is pretty stout. I understand why they are where they are. I've known Rick for 20 years or more and it's been a long journey to get where they are but I think they're at their peak right now vs. anytime over the last 20 years."
YOU'VE BEEN IN A LOT OF RACE CARS IN YOUR CAREER. THAT CAR IS A FOUR-TIME CHAMPION. DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT AT ALL? "I hope that I don't get in that car. It's my greatest hope that Jeff (Gordon) has his baby and gets to drive his car the whole time. And I'm serious. I really hope that I'm not needed but if so, it's an honor that he felt as strong as he did about it and our relationship over at Hendrick is growing and it's just gotten stronger since November. I'll do what I can if I wind up in the race car but I'm no Jeff Gordon and I know that. I'll do everything that I can and give it my heart and soul but it is a different environment and I'm not sure I'll be able to get the most out of it the first time I strap in it because the cars are different. They're built a little different. I would assume that I would probably be more comfortable in a No. 48 car based on the information that they tell me about the cars and the way that they are built."
AS A RACER, DO YOU FANTASIZE ABOUT GETTING IN OTHER DRIVERS' CARS JUST TO SEE WHAT YOU COULD DO WITH IT? "I've been pretty successful in my own car (laughs) and I've had a hand in making my cars what they are. I'm fairly proud of those cars. I told you already before, I'm no Jeff Gordon so I neither shrink from the challenge or embrace the challenge of trying to measure up to Jeff Gordon, either. I'm not thrilled or excited about it, I'm also not scared to death of it either because I know that I can give a good, solid performance and it would be a different environment for me. From seating and the whole thing, it all comes down to if I do drive the car, do I get my seat, do I get some interpretation of quick change. We've got it set up where I can go get in his car within 10 or 15 minutes and drive it. But that's not my seat. It will depend on if I can get comfortable with all those situations and at the end of the day I'll do a pretty good job, comfortable or not, but it may be enough different. The No. 5 Busch car was a challenge for me and we got there, without question, but I didn't get there qualifying. I was embarrassed to qualify 20th or whatever I qualified, 22nd, with that car, but that was a matter of being comfortable yet. We' weren't there yet and once we got into the race, we had made the right decisions on things and we were able to manage to move forward."
WHAT IS IT ABOUT POCONO THAT MAKES SOME DRIVERS PREFORM SO WELL THERE AND OTHERS NOT WELL AT ALL? "It's a big race track so if you're off a little bit it shows up quite a bit there. It is a lot of fun. It's a great race track, it's a great show, a great race. I always love going there. That's why I chose it to be on my schedule this year. I look forward to it. It's still the car of yesterday and I'm really excited about that too."
WHAT KIND OF MINDSET DOES IT TAKE TO GET AROUND THAT TRACK WELL? "You just have to go through the corners good and you just have to go through the corners good and you have to know what you need and know what you've got to compromise on. It's a little bit more of a compromise than a lot of places and you have to know where you can give something up and where you need to be on the money."
PLUS YOU CAN LAND YOUR PLANE ON THE FRONT STRETCH. "Bobby Allison did, I think, once."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE NEW CAR ON THIS COURSE? "We're getting better with the cars. The more we work with them, they get better and better and will continue to get better. They're a challenge to the teams and the drivers and we'll keep working on them."
DO YOU THINK NASCAR'S DECISION TO HAVE A PARTIAL SCHEDULE WITH THE NEW CAR WAS WISE? "I don't think that that was a flawed plan by any means. The switchover is going to be huge and I don't know that the teams could have really been adequately prepared to do full-time new cars in 2007. Changing over has been painful do to both, but it would have probably been more painful at any one period of time to try to do the full switch. NASCAR's pretty smart. They usually come out looking pretty good on their decisions."
DO YOU FIND THE NEW GENERATION OF DRIVER HAS LESS TECHNICAL OR HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE THAN THE VETERANS DO? "There's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with getting in and driving the car and telling the crew what it's doing. Jeff Gordon has made a pretty good career out of doing a lot of that. Just because you didn't build a car with your own hands doesn't make it wrong."
BUT DO THEY GIVE LESS INPUT ABOUT THE CAR? "No, they drive the car and tell them what they need, what the car is doing and what they need, just like the rest of us. I don't think they have less input. I thought you meant when Rusty and Alan Kulwicki and myself, you could drop the parts on the floor in the old days and we would build a car and take it to the track and be competitive with it. That's behind us now. That was a different era, just like we were spoiled if you checked with Cale Yarborough or David Pearson. It was different when they did it too. Each era brings new things. Just like you doing your story, you'd be using a typewriter instead of a computer an era ago. The world is changing. Technology is a bigger part of the sport today and the driver is a lesser part of that hardware part of it."
HAS THE NEW CAR PRESENTED A CHALLENGE IN TERMS OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR TEAM? "It's different and it's completely different so I think everybody's trying to learn what the sweet spots are. It would have been no problem had they not put the splitter at four inches. If they put that splitter at seven inches it would still be a race car, same-old, same-old. Wing or not, it don't matter. It would have still been the same thing. But with that splitter coming down, it made a whole new race car out of it. You cut the suspension in half in the front end and everybody in the garage is scrambling to try to learn how to make the car work with half the front suspension it had before."
CAN YOU SPECULATE ON THE TRACKS WHERE THE NEW CAR HASN'T RUN? "The guys that are beating everybody up real bad are loving the car. The rest are not. The guys whose cars aren't working are hating it. It's hard to say. It's without question, it's a step backward in technology and performance so that doesn't seem to bother somebody when they're the fastest car and they sit on the pole and they lead all the laps. They don't care. For the guy that's struggling in the middle of the pack or whatever, they're not loving it. So it's all relative to some degree."
-credit: gm racing